"There are few hotels in the city which are not harbouring some of the detachment of women who came here last week looking for [a] job." -Colonist
Victoria had an embarrassment of riches in January 1909. Housekeepers.
Many, many housekeepers. All of them American - from "across the Sound," as Victorians referred to anyone from the Seattle area - and all of them seeking employment. From the same man.
Now there's a story for you. For all of the women's obvious confusion and distress, the Colonist's editorial stance was decidedly more tongue-in-cheek than sympathetic: "Has anyone the need of the services of a housekeeper? Are there any bachelors, of means, desirous of securing someone who can take charge of his menage and relieve him of the trouble consequent on the vagaries of servants and the lack of a directing feminine mind? If so, there is at present ample opportunity of securing such help. In fact, the market is overstocked at the present and the price quoted for the services of housekeepers has suffered a sudden decline."
First to become aware of the invasion of foreign domestic help was V.C. Maddock, a city realtor. For days, he'd had to explain to job applicants, some of them very insistent, some of them in tears, all of them frustrated and mystified, that he wasn't the "H. Maddock" who'd placed an ad in the Seattle Times. A steady stream of women to his office, all seeking the position so glowingly advertised, had finally driven him to distraction - and the police.
It all began with a note from a Mrs. Hueston who stated that she'd arrived in Victoria as per arrangement, that she was eager to discuss "his offer" at her lodgings, the upscale Driard Hotel, or she'd be pleased to call upon him at his office. Unable to recall any previous dealing with a Mrs. Hueston, Maddock, hoping that she was seeking assistance for a real estate negotiation, called upon her at the Driard.
"What's your proposition?" she asked, after he was shown into her parlour. When he replied that he hadn't made a proposition and didn't have one to offer, she showed him a typewritten letter to "refresh" his memory. When that didn't work either, she explained how she'd come to Victoria because of a letter she'd received in response to her application for a position as housekeeper. "H. King" had stated that he was a retired army officer with a fine estate near Victoria; he was seeking "a companion" to look after his country home. He offered a generous salary, $25 per week. Hence the response of not just Mrs. Hueston but of "two-score" Seattle women. Applicants for the position were to apply to Post Office Box 675, Victoria.
In Mrs. Hueston's case, King had informed her that she appeared to be just the woman he was looking for and suggested that she come to Victoria as he wanted to meet her before hiring her. He even offered her $50 clothing allowance, to be "charged to my account at the department store for clothes, as I should want you to be always well dressed. Your duties would consist of looking after the house, make it home-like. I am 32 years of age and fairly easily pleased."
That was not all. His house had "every comfort and there are ample servants to do all the work, and should I, after seeing you, decide to ask you to come, you would be treated with every consideration. I am sick of being alone and want a woman around the place."
The letter, variations of which, as police determined, had been sent to other women, were signed by "H. Maddock," a postscript explaining that he used "H. King" in the advertisement for reasons of privacy.
Many of the women who came to Victoria seeking "H. Maddock" settled, it seems, for realtor V.C. Maddock by default. It was then that he remembered having received a telegram, about a month before, addressed to H. Maddock. Upon retrieving the wire, the messenger explained that it was intended for an H. Maddock then staying at the Empress Hotel.
This had sent Mrs. Hueston, and others, charging off to the Empress where they learned that H. Maddock, assistant manager of the Vancouver Sugar Refining Co., engaged a room by the month but that he'd just left for Vancouver having received a telegram to the effect that his home had burned down. The Empress expected his immediate return but he hadn't shown up as of the time of the ladies' queries.
At least the police appear to have taken a more serious and caring approach to their plaint than had the Colonist, quickly determining that P.O. Box 675 was that of the Empress Hotel and that it had been deluged with letters, some awaiting pickup, addressed to H. King. The hotel knew that their H. Maddock had replied to several of them.
Perhaps the real reason police took the case seriously was Madame Fea and her daughter, Mrs. Martin. Madame Fea, it's apparent, wasn't to be trifled with. Her daughter had received a letter, signed by H. Maddock, in response to her job application, offering to interview her personally at the Empress Hotel. He'd been quite garrulous in his response to her, writing that he was "quite a musician" and should he engage her she'd "have ample opportunity of indulging her musical tastes" as his house had a "full complement of pianos, etc." So encouraged was Mrs. Martin that she'd given up a
good position in Seattle.
Madame Fea connected with H. Maddock in Vancouver by telegram and he sent her two payments of $10 each to cover her expenses. Not content with this, she demanded another $10. To police, H.R. Maddock stoutly denied having advertised for a housekeeper and suggested it may have been his brother. All the while, Victoria hotels continued to "harbour...some of the detachment" of job-seekers even after many had returned to Seattle, discouraged.
The last word on this episode, alas, is cryptically short. In a single two-sentence paragraph entitled, "Was a hoax," the Colonist noted that the Vancouver Maddock had informed a reporter, "the entire happening is the result of a joke perpetrated by some friend of his in Seattle. He has no intention of hiring anyone and knew nothing about it until he saw it in the Seattle paper."
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